Then and Now by the House History Man – Sawyer Mansion

Then and Now by the House History Man is a series by Paul K. Williams. Paul has been researching house histories in DC since 1995, having completed more than 1,500 to date. Read Paul’s previous post here.

The triangular lot at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue, R and 19th Streets, NW was once the home to wealthy lumberman and Wisconsin Congressman Philetus Sawyer (1816-1900), who had a Hummelstown (brown) stone mansion build there in 1888, illustrated here. It was designed by William H. Miller, and built at an impressive cost of $80,000 at a time when the typical brick townhouse coast about $3,000.

Sawyer was elected to the House of Representatives in 1864 and served for ten years from 1865 until 1875. He returned to Congress in 1881 as a US Senator, and served two terms from 1881 to 1893. He became notorious for a bribery charge made against him by Congressman Robert La Follette to fix a court case against several former state officials. His estate sold the house for a record $100,000 in 1900.

As Dupont Circle became more commercial along its major corridors, homes were demolished after the turn of the century, or their ground floors converted into retail shops, and upper floors to apartments or offices. Such was the case with the Sawyer mansion, which was razed in 1921, after an existence of just 33 years. It was replaced by the construction beginning in May of 1923 for the George N. Ray building that now serves as the La Tomate Restaurant at 1701 Connecticut Avenue, NW. It was built at a cost of $120,000.

(Sawyer Mansion Picture via Library of Congress, Sawyer Pic via Wikipedia)

5 Comment

  • And that was the LAST time a beat cop was seen walking downtown.

  • They should put that mansion back.

  • Not that it matters, but the location featured is where Conn. and R come together with 20th, not 19th. (I used to live up the block.)

  • To complete this Paul K. Williams post on the triangular site of the old Sawyer Mansion in Dupont Circle, and today better described as The Wonder Building at 1701-19 Connecticut Avenue, NW:

    The George N. Ray building was renamed The Wonder Building by Washington banker Leo M. Bernstein who bought the two-story property after World War II in the 1950’s.

    Dimitri Marens bought it from Leo M. Bernstein in the 1960’s.

    Dimitri Marens’ heirs formed the Athens, Greece based Human Rights Foundation which still owns The Wonder Building to this today at 1701-19 Connecticut Avenue, NW with eight store fronts (four of them currently occupied by La Tomate Restaurant) and with second floor offices above at 1711 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.

    There was a mystery novel bookstore at The Wonder Building in the 1715 Connecticut store front right next to the 1711 offices entrance that President Bill Clinton frequented during the 1990’s.

  • Very interesting. I like this Then & Now feature; keep them coming please

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